As representatives of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, we’re both committed to ensuring the economic strength of our region and the well-being of our workforce and their families. That’s why we’re among a growing group of individuals and organizations working to overcome the strong possibility of an inaccurate 2020 census in New Mexico.
Here’s why: The U.S. Constitution calls for a census to be conducted every 10 years to count the number of people residing in the United States. This information is used to determine how many representatives a state sends to Congress and helps lawmakers allocate funds for education, health care, infrastructure and other investments that strengthen our communities.
The census also enables companies to make data-driven business decisions about potential employees and customers in a community, the products and services they’re apt to buy, and the best locations to open a new office or store.
The big problem for us in New Mexico is that about 43 percent of our residents have been designated by the Bureau as “hard-to-count” – the highest in the nation. These include people in rural and geographically isolated locations, those with unreliable Internet access, low-income households, and other demographic groups who won’t be able to complete their census online.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau may not be prepared to implement the 2020 census effectively, a problem that could greatly reduce the $7.8 billion in federal resources that New Mexico currently receives – and depends on – every year.
An inaccurate count is a tremendous problem for both of the interests we represent. In addition to hobbling business growth, it would limit the funding New Mexico receives for Medicaid, the National School Lunch Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Head Start and other programs that enable children to be healthy, well-educated and prepared for productive lives.
The threat to public health is especially significant because it could jeopardize the more than $4 billion we receive for Medicaid every year. All told, an undercount of just 1 percent will result in a nearly $800 million loss in federal funding for New Mexico.
Fortunately, New Mexicans across the state are tackling this challenge head on. New Mexicans are working together to stand up and be counted. This includes the Statewide Complete Count Commission and more than 60 local complete-count committees across the state. These efforts are supported by iCountNM.com, a site that offers clear advice on how tribal and local governments can join business, faith and community organizations to implement a range of tools encouraging people to complete census questionnaires.
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico we’re taking that message to heart by encouraging our employees to participate in the census through our company newsletter.
Through the Association of Commerce and Industry we’re encouraging businesses and other types of employers and organizations to partner with the New Mexico 2020 Complete Count Commission and the Census Bureau, which will be developing materials to encourage employees, customers and the general public to complete their questionnaires.
While we’re proud to be a part of these efforts, we want to emphasize the power of personal responsibility for ensuring we get our appropriate share of federal resources. Whether it’s online, on the phone or by a paper questionnaire, we need every resident to participate for an accurate count that protects our economy, our families and communities in the years to come.